Considering taxes are on the minds of many today, activists gathered outside of a downtown Chicago post office to campaign for a graduated income tax rate in Illinois.
“This flat tax that people in this state are burdened with right now is totally unfair and makes the poor and middle class pay more in taxes than people who can really afford it,” said Bob Gallie, a volunteer for A Better Illinois.
Gallie was one of a handful of activists with the statewide coalition who passed out literature in Federal Plaza, 230 S. Dearborn St., Tuesday afternoon, urging people to support a “fair” tax, which would implement higher tax rates for those with higher income levels, and lower rates for people who bring in less income.
With the use of the group's Illinois Fair Tax Calculator, activists were able to show people passing through the plaza that they could likely save money on their taxes if the state had a progressive tax rate.
“If the income tax rate in this state doesn’t change to a progressive tax, Illinois will have to keep cutting more and more services, because a flat tax will always be inadequate. Poorer people can’t afford to pay more money,” said Steve Serikaku, a volunteer with A Better Illinois and retired Chicago Public Schools teacher of more than 30 years.
“A flat tax is inefficient, inadequate and unfair,” Serikaku added.
Illinois currently has a flat income tax rate of 5 percent of a resident's net income. The 5 percent tax rate applies to everyone, regardless of their base income. Advocates for a progressive tax rate say a flat tax disproportionately affects low-income households because people with high incomes pay a smaller percent of their earnings.
“The strategists for the wealthy probably got it locked into the Illinois Constitution in 1970 that we only have a flat tax,” Gallie said. “Other states have a fairer tax, they have it graduated, where people with less money pay lower rates, and people with more money pay higher rates, and that’s only fair.”
Here is more from Tuesday’s action:
Of the nation’s 41 states that tax income, 34 have implemented a graduated tax rate. The income tax rate at the federal level is also graduated.
“I’m totally in favor of a fair tax in Illinois,” said Kevin Robinson, a Chicago-native who was stopped by an activist Tuesday and given a tax calculator demonstration. “Our taxation system in this state is bananas.”
Activists on Tuesday also showed passersby how, through FairTaxCut.com, they could reach out to their legislators and demand passage of The Fair Tax Act, SJRCA 40, a resolution introduced last May by State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park). The legislation, which currently awaits committee assignment, would amend the Illinois Constitution and remove a provision stating that a tax on income shall be measured at a non-graduated rate.
Meanwhile, companion legislation sponsored by State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana), HJRCA 33, was referred to the lower chamber’s Rules Committee in June.
The Senate resolution has 27 co-sponsors, while the House bill has amassed 39 co-sponsors.
In order for a constitutional amendment to appear on the November ballot, the state legislature must vote to approve it before May 4.
Under the proposal, an Illinoisan making an annual salary of $55,137 would pay a 4.3 percent tax rate, instead of the current 5 percent, and would save $303 on their state income taxes, according to A Better Illinois. A taxpayer whose income is less than $18,500 would pay less than 3 percent of their income on taxes; an Illinoisan who earns less than $40,000 would pay less than 4 percent; and anyone whose annual salary is less than nearly $205,000 would pay less than 5 percent of their income on state taxes.
Robinson said he has already reached out to legislators, including State Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago), to call for support for a progressive tax rate. Acevedo co-sponsored the Illinois House’s resolution in October.
“For a state that’s so run by Democrats, it doesn’t seem right that we have a tax system that’s set up to give the most amount of money to people at the highest end of the tax spectrum,” Robinson said. “A graduated tax rate seems like it would be a step in the right direction.”